Casey Killingsworth has work in The American Journal of Poetry, The Writing Disorder, Two Thirds North, and other journals. His book of poems, A Handbook for Water, was published by Cranberry Press in 1995. As well he has a book on the poetry of Langston Hughes, The Black and Blue Collar Blues (VDM, 2008). Casey has a Master’s degree from Reed College.
There was this show on the massive amount of food prepared everyday on a luxury ship, thousands of pounds of shrimp and chicken and unspeakable numbers of workers trapped on that boat, racing against the clock to make every meal perfect. I don’t even know if we have words to judge this.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I belong here, like I’m different in the way a shrimp is different from a chicken, the way they look at the world with either feathers or from underneath the ocean and in the end sharing space on someone’s plate is all they have in common.
Sometimes I feel like I’m from another planet, you know, like I’m lying there on someone else’s plate. Then I walk down the street watching everyone watch themselves in store windows believing the same thing, how different they are. And I start thinking, well, maybe we are all from Mars or maybe we’re already on Mars and we’ve been here all along.
And if that’s true, then maybe we’re not so different after all.
Originally published in Tipton Poetry Journal
Natural selection poem
Every girl I loved in high school or at least every one I dreamed about ended up with a boyfriend from another school, and I hated them for that because all the chances I never had anyway died again, like running over a dead animal on your way home. I know now they were instinctively driven to perpetuate, to seek out their best prospects, the shiny athletes or intellectual student body presidents so their own babies would defend the genome, you know, date boys from other schools. I know now it was just natural selection because all of us wished we carried that favored gene too.
Originally published in Down in the Dirt
My life as money
I don’t want you to think I only look at life in terms of money but when I go to work on Monday I’m a dollar sign, income for somebody else, how much work can I do in how little time.
I come home and the house measures me as square footage, the view from the deck I don’t have, how a second bathroom would help the resale value, fix up the yellow lawn, etc.
When I’m in the store I watch people watch me to see how much I’m going to spend, to see how big their bonuses will be.
Even love is money. Once someone left me to go away to college to get a career and there I was, holding hocked dreams and working to make a square living.
I sit in the coffee shop with a $3 coffee plus tip and wonder if there’s any other way to count a life but there is no other way.
Originally published in vox poetica
Crow spreads his wings
This Indian man is instructing us about the ways of a native dance, with illustrations and young people regaled in their finest beaded clothing and they sing and pound drums and the dancers move in ways I have never seen and the music is notes
I have never heard, like the sound creek water makes hitting stones under a distant crow. The man introduces a new dance and he calls the dancer by the wrong name and his young daughter laughs at him just exactly the way my daughter laughs at me.
A million crows fly over the world and if we look up we will see a million silhouettes, each one as different as Gene Kelly is to these dancers, but a daughter’s laugh, that, that sting of wrath wrapped inside the music of a child’s delight, I think that’s the same sound no matter what dance you do, no matter what creek you hear.
Originally published in Galway Review
The names we name our children
Charlie is goofy and irreverent but harmless, Charles likes fine cloth and doesn’t care that others laugh at him. Cheap beer finds Chuck nearly every night and Carly is fun but laughs too hard at parties. Samantha will want to give a speech at graduation, Sam runs faster than the boys. Emily organizes the food on her plate; Scott won’t keep any job for long. Elizabeth hurts to be more popular so she joins a crusade to save something, but for the wrong reasons. Bob will always be the man. Someone whose name I do not know will be a lawyer, someone else will live on the street. Someone named Randall will become the vice president of a huge company and someone else named Randall will inexplicably die in his neighbor’s pool. Gilbert will be a rockstar although he sucks at guitar. Joan is a great artist but nobody will ever know it and she wants to get married, and she wants to have children, but she never will.